Founded by Alexander the Great in 332 BC, Alexandria was for a long time the largest city in the ancient world. Flattened by a tsunami in 365 AD, it was little more than a fishing village when captured by Napoleon in 1798. The 19th century saw it become the centre of the Egyptian cotton trade, bringing prosperity and an influx of European merchants. Then came the bombardment by the English in 1882, which almost flattened the city a second time, and the revolution of 1952, which in effect condemned many of its residential buildings to slow but picturesque decay.
The ebbs and flows of history and different cultures (especially Arabic, Muslim, Greek, Italian, English, and, not least, Jewish) have all left their marks on Alexandria’s architecture. There are classical ruins; Ottoman fortifications; Egyptian okelles (medieval merchants’ buildings); a colourful fishing port; mosques, shrines, churches, and synagogues; mansions and apartment buildings in the neo-Renaissance, art deco, and international styles; brutalist post-revolutionary institutions. And then are oddities such as the Cotton Palace Tower, a skyscraper intended for use as the headquarters of the country’s cotton industry but inexplicably abandoned before completion.
This book, the first systematic guide to the architecture of Alexandria, is the work of many enthusiastic hands. The texts and photographs were produced by students and staff at the Architecture Faculty of Alexandria University.